Atlantic Station deal shows need to monitor urban renewal projects

By David Pendered

Two funding issues related to the development of Atlantic Station illustrate the ongoing oversight needed to manage the type of big urban renewal projects so popular in Atlanta.

Atlantic Station, crowds

The crowds Atlantic Station was expected to attract resulted in the developer paying the Ansley Park Civic Association to implement traffic calming measures in the neighborhood. The measures were intended to deflect traffic created by events such as free movies in Atlantic Station’s Central Park. Credit: atlanticstation.com

Atlanta still owes the Ansley Park Civic Association up to $428,085 related to construction of the 17th Street bridge – 11 years after the yellow bridge opened, on Jan. 5, 2004.

In addition, the city is to pay an outstanding invoice of up to $266,480 for sidewalks, driveways, curbs and gutters in Ansley Park. The work is related to the Ansley Park Pedestrian and Streetscape Project, which dates to the construction of Atlantic Station.

These two funding issues were resolved when the Atlanta City Council voted March 2 to authorize Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration to pay the bills to the association and for the streetscape improvements. The status remains unclear regarding the second of two round-abouts that were to be built on Peachtree Circle.

The issues underscore the complexity of management challenges Atlanta could face in the future as a result of redevelopment projects including Turner Field, Underground Atlanta, the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, and even Fort McPherson.

Residents expect Atlanta City Hall to protect their neighborhoods during urban renewal. This expectation is evident in two real-time projects – Turner Field, and the Memorial Drive corridor, from Oakland Cemetery to the city limits in DeKalb County.

At its Tuesday meeting, the council’s Community Development Committee is to consider proposals to oversee development in these two high-profile neighborhoods. Although the city isn’t necessarily to have a direct role in the developments, residents expect Atlanta to have a say in what gets built:

  • Atlantic Station, Ansley Park

    Atlanta is repaying up to $428,085 to the Ansley Park Civic Association. The money is part of the sum Atlantic Station’s developers provided the association to offset the development’s traffic impact on Ansley Park. The association provided some of the money to the city to pay for road work related to the bridge. Atlanta is returning the remainder of the funds. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

    Atlanta is conducting a $275,000 study that is to, “help the communities adjacent to Turner Field envision the future of the stadium and surrounding parking lots, develop a concept plan and rethink transportation infrastructure needs, all while enhancing and protecting existing neighborhoods.” The Atlanta Regional Commission provided $212,000, the Annie E. Casey Foundation provided an undisclosed sum, and the other partners are Atlanta, and Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm.

  • A proposed Imagine Memorial Task Force would oversee the implementation of recommendations from the corridor study completed in December by Georgia Tech students, who worked under the guidance of Mike Dobbins, a Tech professor of practice and former Atlanta planning commissioner. The Tech study cites a number of roadway safety improvements. Other upgrades proposed in the study intend to foster the creation of a corridor that is visually interesting and vibrant, and safe for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The issues involving Ansley Park date to 1999. Residents feared their neighborhood’s quiet streets would become clogged with traffic heading to or from Atlantic Station from Piedmont Avenue via the 17th Street bridge. Piedmont Avenue becomes Piedmont Road north of I-85.

Neighborhood leaders had a number of options that could have slowed the development of Atlantic Station. The development team, led by Jim Jacoby, opted to avoid the potential delays by paying Ansley Park to devise and implement various traffic calming measures. In addition, 17th Street was configured in such a way that impeded vehicles from departing Atlantic Station via the bridge and driving through Ansley Park.

Terms of this agreement were not disclosed to the public. Rumors set the amount at about $1.1 million.

The civic association evidently provided a portion of the money to Atlanta. Atlanta used the money as some, or all, of the local match to draw down federal funds for the bridge and related road work. Terms of the civic association’s deal with the city call for Atlanta to return to the association any of its funds that were not used, according to the legislation.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

8 replies
  1. Butler 63 says:

    I don’t know who in Invest Atlanta or City government would be experienced or qualified  to monitor or exercise any kind of oversight on financially complex developments if they had those skills they would be in the private sectorReport

    Reply
  2. Butler 63 says:

    Good points -doubt if anyone in City Government or Invest Atlanta have the experience or financial background to monitor complex real estate developments with many moving partsReport

    Reply
  3. Baker says:

    Butler 63 I think people in Invest Atlanta and City government are capable, but generally share your views. These developers have entire departments on finding financing from all over the place to make these things work out for them. The city gets blinded by the promise of development & “economic impact” and the public gets left holding the bag. The house always wins.Report

    Reply
  4. idw says:

    Butler 63 this is just anti-government hooey…And there are many highly skilled folks working in government across the country that choose public service over bigger paychecks.  Your comments are an insult to them, including thousands of local folks working at PUBLIC institutions such as the CDC, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and YES, many state and local government agencies! Some of the smartest folks I know work at Invest Atlanta, Georgia DCA, and the City of Atlanta. Sorry you havent had the privilege to know them.Report

    Reply
  5. JulianBene says:

    As a board member of Invest Atlanta with a business background, I can attest that the agency’s leadership and staff are professionals who are highly qualified for their roles. This article about a deal struck 16 years ago says nothing about Invest Atlanta’s capabilities.  It may serve as a useful reminder that all parties to an agreement are responsible for ensuring that its terms are clearly spelled out.Report

    Reply
  6. Terry Lawler says:

    While this article raised many valid points, I’m just glad that indepth analysis of major public policy decisions and news issues are being covered, even if the metro Atlanta newspaper with the widest circulation chooses not to. Good job David and Maria. Keep it up.Report

    Reply
  7. Guest says:

    JulianBene 
    Would this be the same so-called “professionals” at Invest Atlanta who are mismanaging various TADs in the City, who dole out unlawful property tax exemptions to wealthy developers, and who cannot comprehend the BeltLine TAD agreement with APS mandating the annual PILOT payments?
    What a sorry crowd that is.Report

    Reply

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